Twenty-four hours in a day. 168 hours in a week. Approximately 8,766 in one year and if the average human lives 72 years (according to the Google) that means we each get right around 631,152 hours in our lifetime. How many of them do you really remember? Not as in you remember you spent four hours at a Dave Matthews concert in the summer of ‘94 or that you were stuck in traffic for two and half hours when a semi-overturned or even that dreamy hour, back in 4th grade, when you first believed Suzy X or Tommy Y was your one true love.
I’m talking about hours that live on in you long past the ticking clock; hours seared into you like a hot branding iron into bovine flesh. Hours where you can recall with a drum beat in your chest the separate minutes. Hours where two conflicting emotions collided and swirled together like the perfect soft-serve cone, the seams all running together. Like the hour your baby was finally born, after 30 hours of labor, the pain and the joy pushing against each other, fighting for top-billing. Or when you watched your bride walk down the aisle and your breath caught because both love and fear swelled up inside you at once. I’m talking about that one fateful hour that every other hour led to and you were forever changed, because you felt sure that you had found your reason for being on this earth.
The hour after I sat those suitcases down is one of those hours for me. We spent no more than that in the orphanage that day and yet I can recall more about those 60 minutes than any other hour of my life. It plays like a slow-motion scene in my head. The dialogue is complete, the location and characters laser-sharp.
It wasn’t perfect. It was unpleasant at best. I think maybe, the hours that shape us aren’t well manicured, but instead are wiry and wild around the edges. I turned my eyes away from the pain and loss, because I could not bear it. I moved past children with disabilities beyond anything I knew to exist. I heard stories that I only let brush my heart for fear they would break it wide open if I let them in completely.
It was also beautiful. The way the staff genuinely cared for the children. They way the Colombian light warmed the otherwise damp and drafty rooms. The heart of a tiny, Spanish nun poured out to two strangers in a plea to make us feel and know her mission, her dream for something more, something better for her children. The way I understood suddenly that every life is purposeful, meaningful and valuable and that people are born to this earth for no other reason than to love the ones placed in front of them. And that others, others are born solely to BE loved.
I learned more about faith and faithfulness in that hour than in decades of church and Bible study. I learned about hope in the face of despair, love in the face of fear, grace in the face of unspeakable hate. I learned that what your heart breaks most for is almost always the very thing you are meant to do something about.
I think you have your own hour, or hours. The one in grade school when the bully was taunting you as you stood up for a friend, anger and loyalty swirled together. The hour you first saw children living in a city dump, eating other people’s garbage, heartbreak and resolve swirled together. Maybe your hour was the time you failed miserably at the thing that gives you the greatest joy, embarrassment and determination swirled together. We all have our hours.
What’s your hour?
Photo (Flickr CC) by Gagagah